CU Boulder students

FILE PHOTO: Students stroll across campus at the University of Colorado Boulder.

In Colorado, suicide is the leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults. State lawmakers are trying to help address that with one small change. 

Beginning in August 2023, House Bill 1007 requires Colorado's higher education institutions to print the phone and text numbers of statewide and national mental health crisis and suicide hotlines on the back of student IDs. 

Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law on Friday. 

"Awareness is so important," Polis said. "Adding this information is one more step to reinforce access and the important of access and services for mental and behavioral health." 

In 2021, 10% of Colorado’s suicide deaths were among college-aged adults, age 19 to 24, according to the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado. That’s nearly twice the suicide rate of youth aged 10 to 18. Advocates say the transition period of early adulthood can take a toll on a person’s mental health, with the stress of increased financial and social responsibility adding to the loss of lifelong support systems. 

Nationally, in the 2020-21 school year, more than 60% of college students met the criteria of at least one mental health condition and around 25% of the age group said they had seriously considered suicide.

The bipartisan-sponsored bill received unanimous approval from the Senate earlier this month and passed the House with a 59-3 vote in February. 

Bill sponsor Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, said she hopes it will increase access to essential services, and reduce the stigma of using them. Amabile said her own son has greatly benefitted from calling crisis hotlines in the last year after previously attempting suicide twice.

"I'm committed to doing everything I can do during my time in the legislature to help prevent suicide," Amabile said. "This is just one small piece. There's a lot more that we can and should and will do." 

The three lawmakers who opposed the bill were all Republicans, with one, Rep. Scott Bottoms of Colorado Springs, saying the legislature shouldn't force businesses "to do the government's bidding."  

However, Republican bill sponsor Rep. Marc Catlin of Montrose said his district in particular has experienced an increase in youth suicides in recent years. Catlin said the bill is an invitation for young Coloradans to reach out for help, which he said was difficult for him to do as a young man. 

While testifying in support of the bill, 19-year-old college freshman Taleen Sample said she’s been receiving phone calls from her friends before, during and after suicide attempts since she was only 14. 

“I cannot begin to recall all of the times that I’ve pleaded with a friend to lower a gun from his head or take a few steps back from the ledge of a roof,” Sample said. “I will never know what to say to people who trust me with their lives. … Young people do not know how to convince our friends that things will get better.” 

Last year, the legislature passed a similar bill, requiring suicide hotlines to be added to high school student IDs. Sample helped draft that bill while a member Colorado’s Youth Advisory Council. 

In addition to expanding the mandate to colleges, HB 1007 also requires higher education institutions to distribute suicide hotline information to students who got their IDs before the change took effect.  

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